When Government Threatens Freedom
Enemies of the Constitution and Well-Meaning Government
Perhaps the craziest idea to be given an airing in published works is Prof. Louis Michael Sideman’s opinion piece, “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution,” a direct hit on the Constitution and an opinion that is one of many enemies of the Constitution.
According to his commentary, Prof. Seidman has “taught constitutional law for almost 40 years” and he was “ashamed” it took him that long to conclude that it was an outdated, “bizarre” document.
I have not taught classes on the Constitution but, am a constitutional scholar and have written many articles on the Constitution and it’s interpretation, and it should be self-evident that the oldest living constitution in the world has served to create the most free nation the world has ever known and maintained the greatest republic in the world. Prof. Seidman asserts that Americans have “an obsession” with the Constitution and that is a very good thing indeed. Without it, we would likely have fallen prey to tyranny, as governments did for hundreds of years prior to The U. S. Constitution.
The framers of the Constitution did not spring it on their fellow citizens as a fait accompli, but rather as a new instrument of governance to replace the failed Articles of Confederation. A literate population was able to read the Federalist Papers that argued in favor of the Constitution’s various elements. It was submitted to the legislatures of the states for ratification, a process outlined in The Founding Project website article.
We can thank those legislatures for the Bill of Rights, because they insisted on amendments that would protect the right of free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, and other elements that protect the individual against abuses of power that we now take for granted, but which exist throughout the world. It can be argued that the Arab Spring that overthrew a number of Middle Eastern despots are a reflection of those rights as understood by citizens in nations that have never enjoyed them.
Modern Enemies of Freedom
We tend to forget that many nations even today are ruled by monarchs and others exercising power that denies their citizens any definition of freedom. The Founding Fathers, having fought a long war against the English monarch and his parliament, were particularly sensitive to that, creating an instrument of governance that deliberately created a system of checks and balances to ensure that no President or Congress could act in a manner contrary to the intent of the Constitution.
The Constitution intended to slow down the process of legislation to ensure it received a full debate and was not subject to the whims of the times. In a January 2011 policy analysis published by the Cato Institute, Marcus E. Ethridge noted that “In the wake of the 2010 elections, our President declared that voters did not give a mandate to gridlock. His statement reflects over a century of hostility to the inefficient and slow system of government created by the American Framers,” adding that “A large and growing body of evidence makes it clear that the public interest is most secure when government institutions are inefficient decision makers.”
Enemies of the Constitution: An Example
A more recent example of this was the 2,000-plus page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ACA or Obamacare). At the time, then Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, famously said that “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” That’s the opposite of what the Framers had in mind and is an example of what happens when a political party acts in a tyrannical manner.
Freedom and Fear of Issues
The Framers had to compromise on the issue of slavery, in effect “kicking the can down the road” in order to get assent from the Southern States. The Supreme Court exacerbated this with the Dred Scott decision that ruled that blacks were property no matter where they were. The result was the Civil War.
Enemies of the Constitution…Enemies of Freedom
The argument that the Constitution is an outdated document ignores the fact that it has been amended twenty-seven times and remains the gold standard of freedom for the world and of law in America.
There are many enemies of freedom and Prof. Seidman’s opinion is just one example.
One of the greatest plagues on mankind was the notion of communism, the product of Karl Marx’s hatred of private property, a keystone of the Constitution, and the view that people should be seen as a collective, not as individuals. The Constitution affirms that the power of government resides in “the people” who, as individuals, determine who shall “represent” them and are to be protected against the arrogance of power that spawns the inclination to “rule” rather than represent.
The Framers of the Constitution understood this. The U. S. Constitution is the only thing that stands between us and a tyrannical government.